Until 9 September 2015 when she was surpassed by her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria held the record as the longest Britain’s longest reigning monarch at 63 years and 216 days.
However, Queen Victoria’s reign was almost cut short at least seven times when the following would-be assassins tried to take her life.
10 June 1840
On 10 June 1840, at approximately 6:00 pm, the Queen and Prince Albert left Buckingham Palace by the garden gate in their German drotschky 1carriage, bound for the home of the Duchess of Kent and accompanied by their two usual attendants, Colonel Buckley and Sir Edward Bowater. The carriage rounded the corner and had proceeded a short distance along Constitution-hill when a young man standing with his back to the railings fired once on her Majesty and Prince Albert. Immediately afterwards, another shot was heard. The carriage initially paused but Prince Albert urged it to drive on in haste. Spectators rushed towards the shooter and seized him and he was handed over to two of the Metropolitan Police who took him to the Queen-square Police Court.
It was later determined that eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford fired two pistols at the Royal Carriage. He was charged with High Treason and bound over for trial on 9 July.
Edward Oxford pleaded not guilty. Many witnesses were called and much evidence was given over the next three days. The chief defense was that no ball was found, either in the area of the shooting or in the Royal carriage and therefore, there was no certainty that the prisoner had done anything more than discharge two pistols loaded with powder and nothing more. If there were no balls in the pistols, then there could be no attempt to murder the Queen. Finally, the jury retired to consider the evidence. Within three-quarters of an hour, they were back.
The verdict resulted in a hurried debate. If Edward was acquitted on the ground of insanity, he could be imprisoned during her Majesty’s pleasure, but the jury had acquitted the prisoner of the offence by failing to be persuaded that the pistols were loaded with bullets. Again the jury went off to deliberate. After about an hour, they returned and found the prisoner Guilty, he being at the time insane. After more discussion, their verdict was restated to them as a question:
On their agreement, the Attorney General announce that Edward Oxford was therefore to be confined in strict custody ‘during her Majesty’s pleasure’.
30 May 1842
The second attempt on Queen Victoria’s life was very similar to the first. On the evening of Monday, 30 May 1842, at about six o’clock in the evening, as the Queen and Prince Albert were returning from their evening drive in their open barouche, John Francis attempted to fire a pistol into the carriage. He was spotted by police constable Tanner who rushed towards him in an attempt to knock the pistol out of his hand. As he seized the pistol, it went off, although it did not injure her Majesty or the Prince.
John Francis was tried for High Treason and found guilty on Friday, June 17 at the Criminal Court in London.
With the verdict so determined, Chief Justice Tindall pronounced the sentence:
It was said that Edward Oxford, on hearing the sentence, remarked that had he been hanged, the attempt by Francis would never have been made. In early July however, the newspapers reported that Queen Victoria had commuted Francis’ sentence from death to transportation:
3 July 1842
On Sunday, 3 July 1842, as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were travelling along the Mall to the Chapel Royal in their carriage, a humpbacked boy dressed in a long brown coat pushed his way to the front of the standing crowd and pulled out a pistol. Standing near him, sixteen-year-old Charles Edward Dassett seized his wrist. Seeing two policemen walking on the opposite side of the mall, Dassett took the boy over, showed them the pistol and told them that he had been trying to shoot the Queen. They laughed and told Dassett that there was no charge to be made and he was forced to let the boy go.
Not long after, Dassett was apprehended in Green Park for having a pistol in his hand. He was taken to the station house where he told his story about the humpbacked boy who had tried to shoot the Queen. Witnesses were called and the story was collaborated upon which point the two police constables, Hearn and Calxton were called in and reprimanded for not taking the accusation seriously. They were suspended from further duty for the present time.
From Dassett’s description, it was determined that the accused boy was William Bean, the son of a jeweler in Clerkenwell. The police proceeded to the Bean house and took the lad into custody.
Bean declared that he had not intended to hurt the Queen but that he had committed the act only to be taken up. He said he had put nothing in the pistol but powder and paper and had been in the park for three days waiting for his opportunity. He said that he was tired of his life and wanted to be transported and added that he had pointed the pistol at the ground and not at the Queen.
On Thursday, 25 August 1842, John William Bean was indicted for a misdemeanour in assaulting the Queen. After witnesses were called and testimony was heard as to the boy’s good character, the jury did not even leave the box, but quickly returned a verdict of guilty. Lord Abinger told the court that he would be passing sentence upon the prisoner.
19 May 1849
On Thursday, 19 May 1849, the Royal carriage was fired upon yet again as it proceeded down Constitution-hill towards Buckingham-palace. The shot was fired from Green-park. On this occasion, the Queen was alone in her carriage at about ten minutes before six o’clock and once again, escaped unharmed.
The man who fired the pistol was quickly apprehended by Police-constable Topley and was taken to the Palace and received by Inspector Walker. He was subsequently taken to the King-street station-house and given into the custody of Inspector Darkin.
The prisoner was about twenty-two years of age and was only about five feet six or seven inches tall. He had a fair complexion and hair and was dressed in a flannel jacket, corduroy trousers, black waist coat and cap. His name, he finally admitted, was William Hamilton. He was a bricklayer by trade and an Irishman and an orphan. He was raised in the poor school of the Protestant Orphan Society at Cork in Ireland.
Hamilton pleaded guilty.
The Chief Justice then reviewed the case. Although he felt that the deed had been mostly mischief, rather than an attempt to harm the queen, he sentenced the prisoner with the harshest penalty at his disposal as a warning to others: Transportation beyond the seas for the term of seven years.
27 June 1850
About twenty minutes past six o’clock on the evening of Thursday, 27 June 1850, Queen Victoria along with three of the royal children and Viscountess Jocelyn, lady-in-waiting, left Cambridge House in Piccadilly to return to Buckingham Palace. As the royal carriage passed through the gates, a respectably dressed man ran forward two or three paces and struck the Queen a sharp blow on the head with a small black cane. Several persons in the crowd rushed forward and seized the man and for a moment it seemed likely he might be lynched by the mob until the timely arrival of Sergeant Silver who took the prisoner to the Vine-street police station. The Royal Carriage proceeded onwards to Buckingham Palace.
At the police station, the prisoner gave his name as Robert Pate, a retired lieutenant of the 10th Hussars and gave his address as 27, Duke-street in St. James. The stick with which he had struck the blow was not thicker than an ordinary goose quill and just over 2 feet in length. It weighed less than three ounces.
After being examined several times by doctors to determine whether he was insane, Pate was committed to Newgate to await a hearing.
On 8 July 1850, 30-year-old Robert Pate stood trial at the Old Bailey. He was indicted for unlawfully assaulting the Queen, with intent to injure her, a second count of assault with intent to alarm her and a third count of intent to break the public peace. Many witnesses were called an all testified that Robert Pate was not of sound mind.
At the conclusion of the trial, it was found that although of unsound mind, Robert Pate was capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and he was accordingly found guilty and sentenced to be transported for seven years.
29 February 1872
On Thursday, 29 February 1872, Earl Granville interrupted a discussion at the Houses of Parliament and made the following announcement to the House of Lords:
The boy was seized immediately and disarmed. He was taken to the King-street police-station in Westminster and readily gave his name of Arthur O’Connor. He said that he was 17-years-old and a clerk to Messrs. Livett and Franks, oil and colour manufacturers, and said that he lived with his father and mother at 4 Church-row in Houndsditch.
Arthur O’Connor was brought to trial for treason on 8 April 1872 and was indicted for unlawfully presenting a pistol to the person of Our Lady the Queen, with intent to alarm her. To this charge, the prisoner pleaded guilty.
On hearing the plea, Mr. Hume Williams who was instructed by the prisoner’s friends asked that the plea be withdrawn since he was prepared to show evidence that the prisoner was of unsound mind. After some discussion, his evidence was allowed. The prisoner’s parents, George and Catherine O’Connor along with three doctors from Kings College Hospital were called but it was to no avail. The jury found that the prisoner was perfectly sane when he pleaded guilty to the indictment.
Arthur O’Connor was found guilty and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and twenty strokes with a birch rod.
2 March 1882
At 4 o’clock on the afternoon of Thursday, 2 March 1882, the Queen left Buckingham Palace, driving in her carriage through Hyde Park to Paddington station to board her special train bound for Windsor. Despite the hail that fell, crowds gathered along the route to cheer the Queen as the train left the station. After an uneventful journey, the train arrived at Windsor but as the Queen was entering her carriage, a man in the station yard fired on her Majesty. He was seized at once by three or four police and taken to Windsor police station.
The following telegram was sent from the Queen at Windsor Castle to the Prince of Wales at Marlborough House:
The prisoner’s name was Roderick Maclean. About 30-years-old, he was 5 feet 7 inches tall and was shabbily dressed. He told the police that he was a clerk out of employment and had been born in Oxford street in London and had only been in Windsor a few days, but it was later determined that he was a native of Ireland.
Maclean was tried on 19 April 1882 at Reading for high treason. Mr. Montague Williams presented overwhelming evidence that the prisoner was a lunatic and Maclean was acquitted on the ground of insanity. He was ordered to be detained during her Majesty’s pleasure. 2Prisoners held at Her Majesty’s pleasure are frequently reviewed to determine whether their sentence can be deemed complete.
Other Incidents During Queen Victoria’s Reign
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|2.||↑||Prisoners held at Her Majesty’s pleasure are frequently reviewed to determine whether their sentence can be deemed complete.|